As exam results are released and graduation draws closer, are you ready to start your career? Here are some tips on what to expect from the world of work.
Looking forward to graduation this summer? As finals draw to a close and the parties begin, many students and soon-to-be graduates are turning their minds to the working world.
Maybe you’ve lined up a dream internship or even secured a prize job. Either way, in a few months’ time, you may look up from your work and wonder where those days of heady freedom have gone.
The start of your career is an exciting time, but it’s important to know what to expect. So, here are our top tips on how to make the switch from student to staff.
Work is broader than university
You’ll be working with a much wider range of people in the workplace: it may be that your work colleagues come from a wider range of social and geographic backgrounds. At university you may have got used to working in teams with other students who are roughly the same age too. But at work, this isn’t the case: you will find people of all ages, including those who left school aged 16, all the way through to retirement (and increasingly beyond).
These people may have had a much wider range of education than you – from leaving school with no qualifications, to those with several degrees. It’s also likely that many may have more experience than you in the job, the organisation you’re working for, and just in life itself. Aspirations and motivations may also vary more than at university.
Dealing with people
One of your challenges is to work out how to get along with this wide range of people on a daily basis. And if you’re doing an internship, you’ll have to deal with the fact that they’ll still be there when you’ve gone.
People approach work with different attitudes. For example, if your colleagues have been at the organisation for a few years and are focused on supporting a family, their view of new projects, extra working hours and timescales may be at odds with yours. You may be an energising agent for the team you’re joining, or you may have to build a rapport so that you can inspire them and be a valuable addition. But either way, be sensitive. Watch and listen and see how you can help the team. You may find that after-work activities are a great way to continue this process.
In most jobs, day-to-day business has less variety than the opportunities available to you as an undergraduate. You’ll need to develop some stamina to pursue your work projects. A graduate law student once complained to me: “I have to stay in the office all day, I can’t just go off and play tennis for an hour or watch a movie when I’ve finished an essay or just need a break.” Who’d have known?
As well as learning to work with different people, on longer, sometimes endless tasks, you’ll find yourself learning to manage upwards: spotting problems and suggesting solutions to your bosses. You may seek opportunities to improve things within the organisation, even when it’s not your direct responsibility.
Whether it’s summer work or your first full-time job, it’s important to think about what you’ll write on your CV at the end of it. Can you describe what you were responsible for and what you achieved? For a summer job, no one expects you to have designed and built a new car, but they will be impressed if you took some sort of responsibility.
If, after a couple of weeks, it looks like you won’t have anything to write about, then put your hand up and volunteer for some extra projects. Talk to your boss and explain politely what you’re looking for – ideally with some ideas.
The range of experience and people you’ll work with can be invigorating and fun. Embrace it and you’ll enjoy the start of your career.
Jonathan Black is the director of the University of Oxford’s careers service and internship office.
Thanks to The Guardian for allowing icould.com to republish this article. You can view the original version on the Guardian website.